A wreck I should have seen coming

So I was in a wreck recently.

I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. Well, maybe I did see it coming, but no way did I think that drunk driver would hit me. That only happens to other people.

I was on my way home from the local TV station I work at last Wednesday night. Traffic was a little crazy near the Seattle Center because Sting and Paul Simon were playing the Key Arena that night and their concert got out about the time I was heading home. But once I got on the freeway, traffic was pretty open and flowing well. Almost immediately, I noticed this white Camry driving faster than the wet road conditions called for and swerving erratically in and out of the northbound lanes. My first thought was, “stay back because that person is drunk and we’re coming up on a bridge.”

Since this person was already in front of me when I first saw the car – and given its speed – I figured the car was long gone and I’d never see it again (except for maybe on the news). So I continued my drive home and noticed a cop had someone pulled over in the far left lane just before the bridge that crosses Portage Bay on I-5…nope, it wasn’t the car I saw just moments before – that Camry had to be miles away by now (or wrapped around a pole somewhere). As soon as I began crossing the bridge, a grey Camry merged on to the interstate along side me to my right…no big deal.

All of a sudden, a flash of white catches the corner of my eye – it’s that other Camry that should have damn near been in Canada by now! It swerves at me once, but straightens out before it hits me. Before I knew what happened, it swerves at me again and this time it ain’t stoppin’. I lay on my horn and yell a few profane comments at my rolled up window then…BANG! The sounds of crunching metal and screeching tires turn one of the most beautiful views in the city…

Ship Canal Bridge

…into a clusterfuck of smashed up cars, injured bodies and pure teenage drunken stupidness and irresponsibility.

When that 19-year-old drunk driver hit me on my driver side, she pushed me into the lane to my right where the other Camry was. I clipped him as if I were performing a pit maneuver (which I have actually been trained to do) and spun him out. He crashed against the retaining wall of the bridge and the only thing I could think of was, “Please don’t go over the edge!” For whatever reason, every time I cross that bridge, I think to myself how horrible a place this would be to get into a bad wreck…someone could easily be pushed over the edge!

Luckily for everyone involved, the 3-foot-or-so-high wall did its job and everyone stayed on the bridge. Me and the man I hit got out of our cars (I drive a 2011 Toyota Tacoma) to go over what happened and make sure each other were okay. His chest hurt and he wanted to drive to the hospital, but his car was totaled and I suggested he wait for the cops and an ambulance, which is what he did.

The white Camry that caused this whole ordeal came to a stop about 80 feet past us. Two young girls, who looked like they were fresh from a club, stumbled out of the car; one sat down by the car and started puking, one came over to us to say she was the driver and not her friend. I told that girl that she didn’t look drunk, but her friend did, and whoever was driving that car was not only drunk, but hammered. I told her I thought she was full of shit and that I thought she was lying to me – she’d have to convince the cops that she was the driver, which she did…by failing every point of a field sobriety test. At 19 years old, this girl was handcuffed on a bridge, taken to jail and thrown in the drunk tank.

Drunk Tank

Now, I wish I could be the one to cast the first stone here, but my hypocrisy only goes so far. For those of you who know me, you know I’ve never been a big drinker. I do enjoy a good beer and scotch every now and then or an occasional White Russian, but I’ve never been one who could drink a ton in one sitting – what I’m trying to say is I’m, relatively, a light weight. I always have been. Having said that, I’ve definitely had my nights (mainly in my U-Dub days) where I tied one on and got pretty sloshed. And, very unfortunately, I’ve even driven once or twice in said state as have a lot of us.

I was very lucky to have not hurt, injured or killed anyone when I made my mistakes, but I easily could have. I was afforded the chance to sober up, realize how incredibly irresponsible and stupid I was to drive and vow to never do such a thing again. I was given the chance to – as we all were told to do as children when we messed up – go to my room and think about what I had done. I thought long and hard about it and truly understood the error of my ways. This 19-year-old girl, however, had to learn the hard way.

To add to the fact that she wrecked three vehicles, put one person in the hospital and got charged with a DUI, this girl was driving her parents’ car and is on their insurance…to say she’s in a world of trouble is probably the understatement of the day. But I can only hope that this is her go-to-your-room-and-think-about-what-you-did moment. I hope she realizes, no matter how much shit she thinks she’s in, things could have been a lot worse.

The man who went to the hospital, I’m sure, is going to be fine. He didn’t suffer anything catastrophic – no bones or eyeballs sticking out. I’ve got a little sore neck and back, but nothing major. The guy’s car is pretty messed up, but my truck, surprisingly, didn’t take much damage. All in all, she, nay, we all, were pretty damn lucky. I only hope she learns from this and doesn’t become a repeat offender – Washington State has plenty  of those to go around – we don’t need one more. I also hope I can learn a thing or two from this whole ordeal as well.

I hope this wreck opens my eyes to the things that are truly important in life. I know I took a real quick inventory of where I am and where I’m going with my life. I definitely held my wife tighter that night. I gave her a few more kisses than normal because…well…I could. And that’s what’s important to me.

My advice to those reading this: watch out for swerving cars!
This is what Smitty Sayeth…